The list of top marketers out of work and searching for employment is swelling by the week, but it seems that few opportunities are being created to soak up this excess talent. Deep cuts in media budgets and the down-grading of marketing tasks has left some of the country’s most experienced marketing executives out in the cold.
Among the marketers that are reportedly without a permanent full-time post and have yet to unveil their next move are Carol Fisher, former chief executive of COI Communications; Jon Kinsey, former managing director of London Electricity’s retail arm; Stephen Carter, former managing director of NTL; Gillian Wilmot, former business and consumer markets managing director at Royal Mail; and Stephen Sharp, former group marketing director at Arcadia. These are only a handful of the many marketers that will be looking for work this year. But senior roles are few and far between.
One recruitment consultant estimates that it is taking senior marketers on annual salaries of over &£75,000 up to nine months to find a new job, compared with the three months it took at the height of the dot-com boom in 2000. But he adds that this is not nearly as bad as the “years” it could take some to find another job during the deep downturn of the early Nineties.
Health of the jobs market
But while some observers offer a gloomy prognosis for senior marketing jobs, others are relatively upbeat.
“It is not that bad,” says Steve Ingham, executive director at recruitment consultant Michael Page. “There is still business to be had and there are jobs to be landed in every industry sector.” He echoes a widespread belief among recruitment consultants that the downturn in recruitment advertising in national papers and specialist publications has given a false impression of the state of executive unemployment, making it appear worse than it is. Wafer-thin recruitment sections, he says, do not mean the job market has collapsed but that employers are not bothering to spend &£3,000 on a recruitment ad on top of the recruitment agent’s fee, when they know there are plenty of executives on the market and that they can use one of the many databases around to track them down. “Marketing is still a relatively buoyant recruitment sector,” says Ingham.
Other recruitment consultants are expecting the employment situation in 2003 to be no worse than it has been over the past year, which was itself a re-run of the last six months of 2001.
Meanwhile, David Bodmer, chief executive of recruitment consultants The EMR Group, says: “There are no signs of the senior end of the market picking up. But it has got to pick up some time.” He believes that part of the problem is that redundancies at lower levels mean staff and investors baulk at hiring executives on &£100,000 a year. “When companies are making a lot of people redundant, they can’t be seen to be hiring people at the top. It is as much politically driven as financial,” he says.
But he agrees that the picture is not overwhelmingly gloomy, since some sectors are more resilient than others. Technology, mobile phone and new media sectors have been hit, along with the leisure and travel sectors, which have been badly affected by the terrorist attacks on the US and remain shaky because of fears of a war with Iraq. But the sectors standing firm are fast-moving consumer goods and some financial services, with these businesses keeping up recruitment. Food and household goods are also solid areas because, even in a downturn, people still need to eat and clean, while there has been plenty of activity in online and other retail banking, says Bodmer.
The picture may be patchy, but there is an even more worrying trend appearing: some companies are experimenting with dispensing with the role of senior marketers altogether. Instead, they are merging sales and marketing roles under the post of commercial director.
In some cases managing directors are taking on the top marketer’s role and taking responsibility for marketing themselves. This can exacerbate the crisis, as managing directors with a finance background often tend to believe that they can make savings by axing supposedly superfluous marketing costs, costs that senior marketers know are indispensable in brand-building and customer retention.
In fact, the entire structure of the marketing industry has changed fundamentally over the past two decades. In the Eighties, marketing was one of the top career choices for business-minded graduates. Faced with choosing between marketing, accountancy and the City, it certainly seemed the most interesting option. But the early Nineties’ recession wiped out a generation of marketers, and there has been restructuring and consolidation ever since. Cutting junior marketer recruitment created a shortage of skilled executives through the rest of the Nineties, as the lack of trained personnel worked through the system. This lack of in-house talent was accompanied by an increasing use of outsourced marketing consultants and interim marketing directors.
Wheel of misfortune returns
This time around, a similar process could take place. Marketing consultant Rob Rees says marketers are sitting tight in their present positions rather than chancing new ventures. This could mean that junior to mid-level marketers will lose opportunities of gaining experience on major projects. “There’s a logjam of people with five to ten years’ experience. They are people who need to move, they need to make sure they are continually gaining good experience, but opportunities are drying up, so they aren’t cutting their teeth on ground-breaking projects,” says Rees.
Industry body the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is optimistic that the economy will begin to improve this summer, and that this will feed through to marketing budgets and boost the senior marketers job market.
One theory is that companies will start upgrading their computer systems and this will help to revive the technology industry. The arrival of broadband and 3G technology provides further hopeful signs of a renewal of technology-related activity.
For unemployed senior marketers, CIM joint chief executive Chris Linton says that professional development is vital. Such training “won’t be about marketing,” he says, “but other skills and awareness of issues such as leadership and understanding the economic dimension of what is happening.”
Jobless executives may use their many months out of work as an opportunity to take stock of their careers, re-engage with their families and re-evaluate their lives. But they must be wondering when the jobs will come back.
Who’s on the market
One industry figure’s description of Sue Farr as a “good politician” is appropriate given that she spent seven years at the BBC, an institution famed for its bureaucracy. Her career at the BBC began at Network Radio before she moved in 1996 to the newly created post of controller of marketing for BBC Broadcast. Her remit was extended in 1999 when she took on the marketing for BBC Broadcast, Production, News and the Corporate Centre as director of public service marketing.
Farr’s tenure at the BBC came to an end in 2000, when she was passed over for the board-level marketing director’s role. She later moved to the public relations group Golin/Harris, where she headed the European operations until August this year. Farr is currently working as a communications consultant to Vauxhall Motors, where she is reviewing all aspects of public relations.
Ann Francke, former European vice-president of petcare marketing at Masterfoods, entered marketing by a fairly circuitous route, having first worked in publishing before joining Procter & Gamble’s team of marketers. Her most notable achievement at the household goods and beauty giant, where she rapidly rose through the ranks, was to persuade Madonna to become the face of Max Factor. In 1999 Francke swapped beauty for petfood when she moved to Mars, taking charge of the marketing of petfood brands such as Whiskas and Pedigree. However, in May she left amid speculation of a culture clash. There has been talk of Francke taking on a role in the agency world, but she is understood to have a job lined up on the client side.
Gillian Wilmot was surprised at the end of last year to find herself without a job at Royal Mail, where she had been business and consumer markets managing director for two years. Described by one source as a “decisive, creative, risk-taker”, Wilmot is credited with bringing a breath of fresh air to the &£4.3bn business, having joined from Littlewoods where she was brand and strategy director. Her departure from Royal Mail has been mired in controversy after “sources close to Wilmot” described the organisation as a “boys’ club” prompting an outburst from its chairman Allan Leighton rubbishing the claim.
Having started out at Marks & Spencer, she took on the role of marketing director at Next Directory by the time she was 29 years old. Some believe that Wilmot, who has also held the role of vice-president of marketing at Avon (UK) Cosmetics, is mulling over a board-level position in retailing or at a fast-moving goods company.
Andrew Slamin found himself on the job market in October after his role as Campbell Grocery Products European category director for sauces and food flavourings was axed as a result of restructuring. A keen Welsh rugby fan, Slamin is described as an “easy-going raconteur with an informal style”. While marketing director of the lottery division at Littlewoods Leisure, he was forced to defend the company’s Princess Diana scratchcards against accusations of tackiness. Slamin, who has done stints at Allied Breweries and Birds Eye Wall’s, is tipped to return in a marketing director’s role, where he can work closely with a group of people, as opposed to managing marketers across various markets.
After months of speculation, the indomitable Carol Fisher left COI Communications as its chief executive in June, after three years. Her direct style is legendary. One agency source claims she can handle people in a “tactless and insensitive way”. But most industry figures credit Fisher with turning around the fortunes of the COI. Pet hates include a lack of integrated campaign solutions offered by agencies and the excesses of advertising executives. She has worked at a number of companies, including Holsten Distributors, where she was marketing director; Courage International as international marketing director; and as managing director of the radio sales arm of media owner CLT. Although rumours that she wants to run an advertising agency have sent tremors through the creative community, it is thought the role she favours most is heading a large media company.
Jon Kinsey, former managing director of London Electricity’s retail arm, found himself out of a job in September when the LE Group acquired Seeboard and restructured its operations. The former marketing director of both Camelot and British Gas was a surprise casualty. Kinsey is described as being a “popular guy and a hustler who likes to have lots of things on the go”. A board-level general management position is what many see as his next move. He has experience at Hasbro and Colgate Palmolive, and it should not be too long before Kinsey finds a role.
For someone who is still two years short of 40, Stephen Carter has achieved more than most individuals. At 30, Carter became managing director of J Walter Thompson, before taking the chief executive post at the agency three years later. In 2000, he moved to become managing director of NTL, a position he left at the end of last year amid speculation linking him with the chief executive post at EMAP (MW October 30, 2002). Described as incredibly sharp and an assiduous networker, he is also said to be seduced by power. This could explain why he has also been linked to the chief executive job at Ofcom.
Roger Partington, former TXU Europe head of retail business, has tried his hand at several industries during his career. Starting out as brand manager for Aston Calve at Unilever France, Partington moved on from marketing director at Nestlé Rowntree and Safeway, to a top management role. Described as a “professional operator” by people who have worked with him, Partington has also revealed a power-hungry streak. He is rumoured to have abruptly left jobs at Nestlé and Safeway after new recruits to both companies reduced the remit of his roles.
Jane Frost, former director of marketing and sales for BBC Technology, who is currently doing consultancy work, has been linked with most of the vacant senior marketing jobs, including M&S’s marketing chief, which is now filled. Last year she was offered the chief executive job at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, but had qualms over the package. One insider describes her as “fantastic at getting the best out of people,” but also points out that she is unafraid of rubbing people up the wrong way – a trait that is known to have created a few enemies within the walls of the BBC.
Alongside Sue Farr, Frost is credited with changing the BBC’s approach to advertising during her seven-year tenure. One advertising source says: “She used to say to us quite brazenly, ‘make me famous’.” Before working at the the BBC, Frost worked at Shell and on Unilever’s Persil brand.
When Zoe Morgan quit her position as strategic marketing director at Boots in July, she told staff she wanted to change her career direction significantly. For the previous six years she had worked in marketing for Boots and its previous subsidiary, Halfords. As director of marketing and merchandise for Halfords, she was credited with implementing its “arcade-style” layout, where different product lines are presented through a store-within-a-store format. After a stint at Boots the Chemist as marketing director, Morgan became Boots’ first female marketing chief and the only woman to gain a top grade in Boots’ internal grading system. Morgan is said to have dismissed the idea of consultancy, while one former colleague has said he would not be surprised if she took up a managing director role.
Compiled by Victoria Furness and Gemma Charles
Sainsbury’s Bank is looking for its first marketing director, who will report directly to chief executive Tim Pile. Director of customer insight, Tom Kerr, previously had responsibility for overall marketing.
News Group Newspapers’ former marketing director Nick Canning has left to join troubled supermarket chain Iceland in the same role, leaving responsibility for the marketing of the News of the World and The Sun in the hands of Andy Agar, the group’s former promotions director, who is covering the post on an interim basis.
Masterfoods is trawling its ranks to find a suitable candidate to fill the post of European franchise director for social brands with responsibility for marketing Celebrations, Milky Way and M&Ms in Europe. The previous director, Helen Stevenson, resigned last year to join Lloyds TSB as director of group marketing and UK retail banking strategy.
Dell’s marketing team is being overseen by Martin Boyce, general manager of the Enterprise division, after its marketing director for UK and Ireland, Nick Eades, left last month (December). The company denies it is looking for a direct replacement for Eades, but a company spokeswoman admits that it “may appoint someone at some point” to oversee marketing.
Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) is seeking a head of retail brand marketing after James Boulton was promoted to head of marketing and customer relationship management for the group in September. Boulton replaced Philip Hanson, who was put in charge of mortgages and secured lending.
Thomas Cook has created a marketing customer strategy director post to help it fulfil its change in strategy to target lifestyles in addition to destinations. Thomas Cook is looking to fill the position internally first before considering external applicants.
Ofcom, the new “super regulator” for the media and telecoms industries, is hunting a chief executive. The post has been advertised in The Sunday Times, with a salary estimated to be in the region of &£200,000. A number of high-profile names have been linked with the post, including Nick Lovegrove, the McKinsey consultant who advised John Birt when he was director-general of the BBC; Patricia Hodgson, the chief executive of the Independent Television Commission; Stephen Carter, former managing director of NTL; Rolande Anderson, chief executive of the Radio Communications Agency; and Tony Stoller, chief executive of the Radio Authority.
Boots’ search for a chief executive to replace Steve Russell later this year has already thrown up candidates from a marketing background, including Sara Weller, assistant managing director of Sainsbury’s, and Tesco marketing director Tim Mason. Former Arcadia chief executive Stuart Rose has also been linked with the job.
EMAP has been searching for a chief executive ever since Kevin Hand resigned last year and chairman Robin Miller stepped in on a temporary basis to caretake the role. Newspaper reports have linked a number of people to the job, including EMAP chief operating officer Tom Moloney; former NTL managing Stephen Carter; United Business Media chief operating officer Malcolm Wall; head of book publisher Penguin John Makinson; Aegis boss Doug Flynn; former ITV head Richard Eyre; and EMAP’s finance director Gary Hughes.
IPC Media began its search for a chief executive at the end of last year when it was announced that Sly Bailey was leaving to join Trinity Mirror as chief executive.
Body Shop is hunting a UK managing director, following the departure of Bernie Foster in August, after three years in the job. In November, she joined Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo as UK chief operating officer.
Compiled by Victoria Furness and Gemma Charles